Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Other Side

Having a child is so interesting for me. I've been a teacher for a long time (I started in '97, you do the math) and I have experienced all of these annual rituals of the school year (starting school, "Meet the Teacher Night", concerts, etc) over and over again, but never as a parent. It's fascinating to experience it all from the other side.

Tonight was Pk's Meet the Teacher Night. I've done these over and over. Every year, we frantically try to get work up on the walls, get the kids' desks tidy, write up handouts about everything in the programme and rush back to school in the evening to meet everyone. I am always a bit nervous, always anticipating the parent who is going to ask me something that I am not expecting which leaves me feeling a bit unsure on my feet. We've had crazy parents, combative parents (although this is much rarer than one might expect based on what I hear from other teachers), out-of-control children and, worst of all, that parent who just won't leave at the end of the night. Every year, there is discussion in the staff meeting about the fact that this is not an interview night and that we are not there to discuss individual children with their parents. We are there to outline the programme and be available for questions. Every year, I end up doing interviews with every parent. I could be tough and refuse to answer the question that every parent asks, whether out loud or through their eyes - "How is my child doing and do you like him/her?" Personally, unlike many teachers, I don't mind telling parents that. So many parents work and we don't ever get to see each other, it's the least I can do. And, to be totally frank, I don't really feel like trying to set up parent interviews before or after school, it makes sense to talk when the parents are already there.

Tonight, I developed a much greater understanding of why every parent wants that little interview. Pk won't tell me anything about her class (other than that she cries a lot, she says). Dh and I have been so curious to know how she spends her day and whether she is, in fact, crying all the time. We arrived to the school and there were cars for blocks (many children are bused to our school from surrounding farming areas so driving is necessary for those parents). The halls were crammed with families, the book fair was so crowded that we didn't even attempt it. We wandered somewhat aimlessly down to the kindergarten wing - it was obvious that since we had come in a different door that the one Pk typically uses, she had no clue where she was going. Once we entered the classroom, it was bedlam (this teacher has two groups of children so she has 46 families to see in two hours). I tried to get Pk to take me on a tour but she wasn't especially interested in showing me much other than the class computers. I desperately wanted to talk to the teacher and find out how she was doing (and whether she was liked). It was so busy, we only had a couple of seconds and all that I really got was that 1. Pk is very sweet, 2. no, she isn't outright crying but she has episodes of chin quivering and seems to wander the classroom clutching the notes I write in her lunch each day and 3. she is eating part of her lunch for snack and hasn't shared with her teacher that she has a snack in her bag in its own cloth bag with the word SNACK printed hugely in permanent marker.

I realise that her teacher has only had her at school for four days and really doesn't know her but I wanted more. I also have to say that I have been a bit surprised at the school - I don't find it as welcoming as the one at which I work (if the Principal was there, I didn't see him and ours is always either outside in the hallway doing a meet and greet or meeting parents in the classrooms). It reminded me that when I do our "Meet the Teacher" night next Thursday, I am going to go out of my way to let parents know that all is well, that I like their children and that they are welcome.

I think that having a child in the school system is definitely going to make me a much better teacher.

1 comment:

  1. Super interesting! Good luck to both of you :)

    Nikki - blog design to change the world